MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 10, 2012) – Iowa Speedway in Newton is one of just seven tracks on the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule that the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) No. 18 Tundra, which has 16 victories since debuting in the series in 2010, has yet to conquer. After three straight top-10 finishes with Jason Leffler behind the wheel, the team seeks continued growth with its veteran driver in Saturday’s American Ethanol 200, as they aim to harvest their first win in the Hawkeye State and first Truck Series victory of 2012.
The California native found immediate success driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Iowa and will be looking to do the same in his first trip to the .875-mile tri-oval as a competitor in the Truck Series. Leffler, who grew up racing on short tracks in his home state, finished third behind winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Kyle Busch in the inaugural Nationwide Series race at the bumpy speedway. When the series returned to the Hawkeye State in 2010, Leffler once again scored a podium finish, with Busch capturing the victory, and fellow Sprint Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick coming home in the runner-up spot. Last season, Leffler’s 13th-place finish in the August NNS race was his best result in two trips to the Newton track.
Leffler isn’t the only member of the Shore Lodge Racing team that took an immediate liking to the Rusty Wallace-designed short track; crew chief Eric Phillips visited Victory Lane at Iowa in the inaugural Truck Series race. Phillips’ driver, former Truck Series champion Mike Skinner, dominated the field, leading 180 of the 200-lap race. Brian Ickler piloted KBM’s No. 18 Tundra for the veteran crew chief each of the last two seasons, mustering two top-15 finishes.
The veteran driver-crew chief tandem, each who has experienced prior success at the challenging course cradled in the confluent cornfields of Central Iowa, will be working together Saturday in an effort to bring home the victory and cross another track off the KBM hit list.
Jason Leffler, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
You experienced immediate success in the Nationwide Series at Iowa, is there something you like about the track?
“I have always run well there. I finished third the first two times there -- behind some good drivers like Kyle (Busch), (Kevin) Harvick and (Brad) Keselowski. We had two other good runs that were spoiled by some problems -- blew a motor once and a right front tire another time. It is a slick short track, so you have to be aggressive, but it also takes a little bit of finesse to get around there. For as new as the track is, it drives a lot like an old short track. It’s definitely a fun place to race.”
Is there a trick to getting through the bumps in Turn 1?
“The bumps seem to change every year, so I don’t know if you would call it a trick, but there is definitely a technique of getting through them and they are something you have to deal with. This time of year it is going to be hot and slick, so your truck has to have good forward bite and at the same time be able to turn through the center.”
Do you enjoy the atmosphere at Iowa?
“The Midwest fans -- especially up in that region -- always seem hungry for NASCAR. They support that place and the track does a really good job of promoting it -- it’s really fan friendly. The track knows who is important and that’s the people who are paying the bills. There are always a lot of people tailgating before and after the race -- that is really fun to see. I’m looking forward to participating in the autograph session on Saturday afternoon and being able to interact with all of those great fans.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
Is Iowa similar to any other track that you’ve been to in your career?
“It’s really its own track and presents different issues than other places we go. It has some characteristics of a couple places, everybody wants to compare it to Richmond, but Turns 1 and 2 are kind of their own animal. There are so many bumps that it makes it rough getting into Turn 1 and then it is really tight coming off of Turn 2. Turns 3 and 4 are similar to Richmond, but a little bit tighter.”
What will be the biggest challenge at Iowa this weekend?
“It’s really hard to get a driver comfortable getting into Turn 1 and then still allow them to be able to turn through the center. We haven’t been there yet this year, but it seems like every year that we go back the bumps in Turn 1 seem to get worse. Goodyear has gone through a couple different generations of tires at Iowa and we’ll be on a new tire again this time around after the Nationwide guys had some tire issues in the spring.”
Jason Leffler’s No. 18 Shore Lodge Tundra:
Chassis KBM-7: Chassis KBM-7 has collected three wins, a runner-up and five top-10 finishes over six career starts. The Toyota has only seen the track once so far in 2012, an eighth-place finish with Leffler behind the wheel in the March race at Martinsville (Virg.) Speedway. It is also the same Tundra that Brian Ickler qualified seventh and finished 14th with in last year’s Truck Series race at Iowa.
Notes of Interest
Jason Leffler @ Iowa Speedway:
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